Dec. 6, 2002
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Ranked sixth in this week's AP poll and seventh in the ESPN/USA Today version, Oklahoma (3-1) hosts unranked Hartford (2-1) on Saturday at 2 p.m. inside Lloyd Noble Center. The game will air live on the Sooner Basketball Radio Network (flagship KOMA 1520 AM in Oklahoma City) with Brian Brinkley (play-by-play) and Mike Houck (analyst) calling the action. The game will also be televised by the Sooner Sports Network (KSBI Channel 52/Cox Cable 9 in OKC). Kevin Slaten (play-by-play) and Wayman Tisdale (analyst) will announce. Tickets are available and cost $15, $20 or $25, depending on location.
HARTFORD PROJECTED STARTERS F 2 Jerell Parker (6-4, 210, Jr.) F 44 Pierre Johnson (6-6, 185, Sr.) C 34 Josh Odugbela (6-8, 200, Sr.) G 13 Wayne McClinton (6-2, 195, Sr.) G 20 Ryan Stys (6-0, 160, Jr.)
OKLAHOMA PROJECTED STARTERS F 34 Kevin Bookout (6-8, 260, Fr.) C 21 Jabahri Brown (6-10, 210, Jr.) G 2 Ebi Ere (6-5, 215, Sr.) G 4 Quannas White (6-1, 190, Sr.) G 10 Hollis Price (6-1, 170, Sr.)
TEAM STATISTICAL COMPARISON Category Oklahoma Hartford Overall Record 3-1 2-1 Points Per Game 76.5 67.7 Opponent Points Per Game 64.8 66.0 Rebounds Per Game 36.3 37.3 Opponent Rebounds Per Game 29.5 36.7 Field Goal Percentage .453 .404 Opponent Field Goal Pct. .480 .451 3-Point Pct. .307 .333 Opponent 3-Point Pct. .375 .319 Free Throw Pct. .764 .648 Personal Fouls Per Game 17.0 18.0 Assists Per Game 16.0 16.0 Turnovers Per Game 11.5 14.3 Blocked Shots Per Game 1.0 3.0 Steals Per Game 9.3 7.7
Oklahoma has won three consecutive games by an average of 17.7 points, although its last outing against Prairie View A&M on Saturday was anything but a sure victory. OU triumphed 75-63 over the Panthers but held just a two-point lead with seven minutes left in the game. The Sooners used 13 points (nine on three-pointers) from Hollis Price over the final 6:30 to pull away. It was Oklahoma's 25th straight win inside Lloyd Noble Center.
Senior guard Ebi Ere, who tied Price with a game-high 16 points against Prairie View A&M, is the team's leading scorer and rebounder (tied with Jabahri Brown) through four games with 20.3 and 6.5 per-game averages. He has led the team in scoring in all four games and was named the Sooner Invitational MVP for his efforts against UC Irvine and Princeton. Price averages 15.3 points and team highs in assists (3.3) and steals (2.0), but is shooting just .432 from the field and .259 from long distance. He leads the team with his .889 free throw mark. Brown ranks third on the squad with his 10.3 scoring average and also averages 6.5 boards and 2.0 assists. Freshman forward Kevin Bookout averages 8.5 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting a team-best .600 from the field.
After Hartford started the season with a pair of home wins over Long Island (81-76) and Delaware (70-57) to give itself a 2-0 start for the first time since 1992-93, the Hawks lost at Oklahoma State on Thursday night by a 65-52 count. Hartford, a member of the America East Conference, trailed OSU 33-18 at halftime but outscored the Cowboys 34-32 in the second half. The Hawks shot just .283 from the field in defeat.
Senior forward Pierre Johnson averages 18.0 points per game and leads a trio of Hawks who average double figures in scoring. The reigning America East Player of the Week is shooting .579 from the field and also averages a team-high-tying 6.0 rebounds per game. Junior forward Jerell Parker averages 12.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and a team-high 3.7 assists. Parker, who scored 22 points against Long Island in the season opener, had a game-high eight assists against Delware State and a game-high 13 rebounds versus Oklahoma State. Junior Amous, a senior forward who started the first game but came off the bench for the second, did not play at OSU due to a toe injury. He averages 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. From Oklahoma City, Amous attended Bishop McGuiness High School and Connors State Junior College.
Head coach Larry Harrison, a 1978 Pittsburgh graduate, is in his third season at Hartford and owns a 20-43 record. The Hawks finished 4-24 in his first year and posted a 14-18 mark last season. Hartford finished in third place in the America East Conference last year with a 10-6 record.
HARTFORD SERIES HISTORY
Saturday's game will mark the first between Oklahoma and the Hartford Hawks.
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M LEFTOVERS
The Sooners have won 16 straight games in the month of December dating back to a 60-55 loss at Mississippi on Dec. 2, 2000 (the same night OU beat Kansas State to win the Big 12 football championship).
DEFENSE NOT DELIGHTFUL
Head coach Kelvin Sampson has expressed displeasure with the Sooners' defensive efforts so far this year. Through four games, opponents are shooting .480 from the field and .375 from three-point range. OU ranks last in the Big 12 Conference in field goal percentage defense and eighth in three-point field goal percentage defense. Last year, Oklahoma held foes to a .406 mark from the field and a .299 figure from beyond the arc to rank second and first in the league, respectively.
ERE STRONG AT START
Guard Ebi Ere has started his senior season with a sense of purpose. The 6-5, 215-pounder has led the Sooners in scoring each game (24, 14, 27 and 16 points) and averages a team-high 6.5 rebounds. Last year he shot .427 from the field but so far this year he sports a .508 figure. Ere also averages 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals per outing. Against Princeton in the Sooner Invitational championship game, he registered 27 points (two shy of his career high), seven rebounds, a career-high six assists, a blocked shot and two steals.
One of the best guards to ever wear an Oklahoma uniform, senior Hollis Price has already passed six players (Corey Brewer, Bobby Jack, Garfield Heard, David Little, Aaron Curry and Al Beal) on the school's all-time scoring chart this season. He now stands 16th on the career list with 1,270 points and needs 68 points to tie Mookie Blaylock for 15th. If he duplicates last year's 577-point performance this season, Price will wind up seventh on the career scoring list. The New Orleans native also ranks third in career free throw percentage (.830), sixth in three-point field goal attempts (425), sixth in three-point field goals (154), sixth in steals (178), seventh in minutes played (3,280), ninth in assists (379) and ninth in steals per game (1.7). Price was named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year by league coaches and media and is also considered a solid preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards. Additionally, he picked up preseason All-America honors from Playboy. Price averaged 16.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game last year to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors, as well as third-team All-America recognition from The Sporting News. He wrapped up the season by earning Big 12 Tournament and NCAA West Regional MVP honors.
Said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson, "To me, he's our heart and soul. Hollis embodies what we want in a Sooner basketball player. The way he practices, the way he carries himself off the court, the way he performs in the classroom, his effort and his pride are impressive. There are very few things in the future that I dread, but I can honestly tell you that I'm really, really dreading senior night. I'm going to really enjoy every minute I'm with Hollis this year because I don't know when I'll get another one like him."
JOHNSTON PROVIDES SPARK OFF BENCH
Energetic sophomore backup point guard Blake Johnston has performed extremely well when filling in for senior Quannas White. Johnston, who has played 14.5 minutes per game, is averaging 5.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.8 turnovers and 1.3 steals. He is shooting .533 from the field (8-for-15) and .545 from three-point land (6-for-11). Johnston's three-point mark ranks sixth in the Big 12 while his 4.0 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks third. Twice this season he has hit buzzer-beating three-pointers to end first-half play.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
While preseason publications raved about OU's experienced veterans, fanfare about the team's newcomers paled in comparison. Four freshmen have seen significant minutes in the early going this year. Forward Kevin Bookout is averaging 8.5 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting a team-high .600 from the field in 28.8 minutes per game. He became just the second freshman under ninth-year OU coach Kelvin Sampson to start the first game of a season. Guard De'Angelo Alexander is averaging 5.3 points and 3.8 boards in 17.5 minutes per outing and registered a game-high 25 in the team's second exhibition contest. Center Larry Turner is averaging 1.5 points and 2.0 boards in 8.3 minuters per contest. Redshirt freshman forward Matt Gipson is averaging 5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11.0 minutes per outing. Collectively, the quartet has scored 76 points (19.0 per game) and grabbed 51 boards (12.8 per game).
A CHARITY CASE
Oklahoma has traditionally been a sound free throw shooting team under Kelvin Sampson as seven of his previous eight squads have finished first or second in the conference in the category. Last year, the Sooners, who finished seventh nationally in free throw shooting, led the Big 12 with a .767 season mark (they shot an amazing .798 in league games) and broke the school record of .755 set in 1985-86. OU is again off to a great free throw shooting start this season. Through four games, the Sooners own a .764 free throw mark.
HOME IS WHERE THE "W" IS
Lloyd Noble Center has always been extremely kind to the Sooners. Oklahoma, which posted a perfect 16-0 mark at home last year and is 3-0 this season, is 344-59 (.854) inside the building since it opened for the 1975-76 campaign. The Sooners are 107-16 (.870) at home under ninth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson and have won 25 straight. The 25-game home winning streak is OU's longest since winning 51 in a row in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
SAMPSON SIGNS STELLAR HIGH SCHOOL CLASS
Oklahoma signed four high-schoolers to national letters of intent Nov. 13. The class, which includes point guard Andrew Lavender, swingman Brandon Foust, combo guard Lawrence McKenzie and post Longar Longar, has been rated as one of the nation's 10 best.
Lavender is a 5-7, 155-pounder from Brookhaven (Ohio) High School who averaged 11.0 points and 10.8 assists per game last year in leading his team to a state title. He is generally regarded as one of the country's top two or three point guards and is a top-20 national recruit. Lavender's teammate, Brandon Foust, is a 6-6, 200-pounder who averaged 12.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as a junior. Foust is considered one of the nation's top 60 players. The duo led Brookhaven to a 27-1 record last year.
McKenzie, 6-1 and 165, has won three state titles at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, Minn. The former teammate of current Sooner Johnnie Gilbert averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last year. He is regarded as a top-75 national recruit and appears on some analysts' top-50 lists.
Longar, a 6-10, 210-pounder originally from Sudan, averaged 15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks last year at John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minn. He is considered a top-50 recruit by most analysts.
"I've never been into recruiting rankings," said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson. "I look at how the players a team recruits fill the needs of that team. We will lose three starting guards after this season in Quannas White, Hollis Price and Ebi Ere. Lavender, Foust and McKenzie will not only form a great backcourt, but they're all freshmen. And Longar will be a freshman in the frontcourt. He's an investment who possesses two things you can't teach -- size and athleticism. These kids all come from great high school programs and learn from great coaches."
OU SECURES BEST PRESEASON AP RANKING
OU's No. 3 preseason AP ranking marked its highest ever to start a season. The Sooners' previous best AP ranking heading into a season was No. 5, in both 1984-85 and 1988-89. Oklahoma finished both of those seasons ranked No. 4 in the AP poll under head coach Billy Tubbs.
OU RANKED NO. 1 BY ESPN.COM
ESPN.com ranked the Sooners No. 1 in the nation in its preseason power poll Nov. 13. Oklahoma is in front of No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Florida. Said ESPN.com's Jay Bilas, "The Sooners are the toughest and hardest nosed team in the nation. Kelvin Sampson has a durable and resilient group that is deep and athletic, and has embraced Sampson's style of playing smashmouth basketball on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma sends four athletes to the offensive glass, rebounds the ball with ferocity, gets into your chest and defends with an aggressive and physical demeanor, and has the mental make-up to win the national championship."
OU BOASTS NATION'S SECOND-LONGEST POSTSEASON STREAK
OU has participated in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament in each of the last 21 seasons. During that stretch the Sooners have made the NCAA field 17 times and have played in the NIT on four occasions. The 21-year streak is the second longest in the nation. OU trails only Indiana, which has made 25 straight postseason appearances.
EIGHT STRAIGHT...AND COUNTING
Oklahoma has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of Kelvin Sampson's eight years in Norman. Only eight other schools have made the "Big Dance" each of the past eight seasons (Arizona, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Stanford and UCLA).
MODEL OF CONSISTENCY
Oklahoma has registered a winning record in 25 of its last 26 seasons. No other Big 12 team can boast as many winning campaigns since the 1975-76 season as the Sooners. OU has posted a 588-251 (.701) record over the past 26 years.
THE LAST THREE YEARS
Over the last three seasons, Oklahoma has amassed an 84-19 (.816) record, good for the nation's fourth best winning percentage and fourth most wins during the span:
By Winning Percentage
1. Duke (.880)
2. Cincinnati (.825)
3. Stanford (.821)
4. Oklahoma (.816)
1. Duke (95-13)
2. Cincinnati (85-18)
2. Tulsa (85-23)
4. Oklahoma (84-19)
UNDER KELVIN SAMPSON...